October 31, 2013

Witch Jugs and Witch Bottles

Child Levitation
 Witch bottle, or witch jugs are a curious archeological find today. Bottles filled with liquid, rusty nails, hair, pins, and nail clippings have puzzled people who have come across them in home renovations for years.These bottles are typically found buried under front doorsteps or under hearths and seem to have been most popular during the 1600s.

As written evidence suggests, witch bottles were thought to protect the makers from the evil preying of witches or evil kill the witch. In the 1600s writer and orators turned to the supernatural world to explain and confirm events that were happening at the time when paranoia, fear and witchcraft plagued the minds of many. The book Saducismus Triumphatus, published in 1681, details how a witch bottle was to be made and used an example of how a man made one to help treat his suffering wife.  

In the book, the man was instructed to fill a bottle with his wife's urine and some pins and needles then cook it over a fire. When he did so, the cork popped out of the bottle and the contents flew out and his wife remained sick. As that was unsuccessful, the man was instructed to make a new bottle and bury it. But this time, his wife got better and later, he reported a woman he did not know came to his house and claimed that the man had killed her husband. Stories like these perpetuated the existence and malicious works attributed to witches and demons.  

While witch bottles have been found throughout the UK, only eight possible witch bottles have been found in the US. One was found during archeological excavations on Great Tinicum Island, here in Delaware County. For more information on this witch bottle visit: An American Witch Bottle

Water, eh?
Other items used to ward off witchcraft that are found in houses are worn out children's shoes which were commonly built into chimneys and the remains of dead cats. "Concealed shoes" are found commonly in both the U.S. and the U.K. There is even a museum collection of them at Northampton Museum and Art Gallery in England. The shoes were thought to trap witches attempting to enter through the chimneys and it was thought that the dead cats would be a bad omen to any evil or witches trying to enter a residence.

As with witch bottles, these items typically leave homeowners scratching their heads and are an uneasy reminder of how real witch craft and superstition were to some people in a time where suffering was rife and explanations scarce.   

Happy Halloween everyone! If you'd like to read a bit more, check out How to Identify a Witch According to Cotton Mather.


  1. I hadn't heard of these before! Thanks for sharing the background on them. :)

    Happy Halloween, Stephanie!

  2. That was a really cool post! I remember us talking about these a long time ago, but I had forgotten about them. I especially enjoyed the little articles you posted. The thing about the old shoes was neat.. "The shoes were thought to trap witches attempting to enter through the chimneys..." They would have had a time with that with the Floo Powder in Harry Potter. ;)

    1. I'll bet they wouldn't have done it, even if they were told. It would have been nonsense. I think Vernon would have scoffed. He would have gone for a more practical solution.

  3. I've honestly never heard of these. Thanks for educating me! They sound fascinating. :)

    1. It's an interesting custom and we happen to live so close to one of the few found in the U.S.

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